About THE REPORT
Ngaga-dji (hear me) – young voices creating change for justice
The Ngaga-dji project voices the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria’s youth justice system. Ngaga-dji is driving the change Victoria’s youth justice system needs to enable Aboriginal children to thrive in their communities.
The stories in Ngaga-dji are from the heart, they are about love, trauma, strength, discrimination and healing. They are about justice and equality. These children are telling their stories because they trust us to listen and take action on the Ngaga-dji solutions.
The Koorie Youth Council (KYC) is based on the lands of the Kulin Nation in Naarm (Melbourne). KYC gives our deepest respect to people of the Kulin Nation, in particular, to all Elders past, present and emerging for their knowledge, wisdom and legacies that continue to drive us as we walk a path toward positive social change.
We also acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and pay respect to the knowledge, cultures and continued history of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations.
We respectfully acknowledge and thank the custodians and communities across Victoria who supported the Ngaga-dji project. They are continuing the fight for justice by supporting KYC to yarn with children and young people on their land.
The Koorie Youth Council (KYC) is the representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Victoria.
Led by an Executive of 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and our state-wide members, KYC values the diversity and strength of young people as decision-makers. KYC advocates to government and community to advance the rights and representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. By hosting events like the annual Koorie Youth Summit, KYC brings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people together to amplify their voices for social change.
What people are saying
“Every child can heal, and the importance of culture and connection to community for Aboriginal children and young people cannot be underestimated. Imagine if, as Ngaga-dji calls for, Aboriginal community organisations were sustainably resourced to meet children’s needs before they became involved in the justice system.”
Commissioner for Children and Young People
“Young People are our future and it makes us proud to see the work that the Koorie Youth Council are doing for culture and community…We need to change the system so that young people are listened to and supported to connect to their culture, and those interventions need to happen a lot earlier in young people’s lives.”
Aboriginal Justice Caucus
Yarning justice, gathering stories
Ngaga-dji is based on listening, valuing and acting on the voices of children in our communities. Born out of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement, Ngaga-dji tells the stories of children that society silences with incarceration and stigma.
Over six months, KYC engaged with four community sites (including rural, regional and metro) and two youth justice custodial centres to meet 42 children and young people who were currently or previously under youth justice supervision. Participants represented a range of ages, from among the youngest to the oldest children in the system. We also spoke to some over-18 participants who reflected on their time as children in youth justice. Participants had experienced a range of contact with the justice system, including:
courts (mainstream and Children’s Koori Court)
good behaviour bond
incarceration (youth justice custody) on remand and sentenced
Engagement took the form of group yarning circles and individual interviews. These yarns enabled participants to lead conversations to ensure their safety and confidentiality. Discussions spanned Aboriginal children’s lives in community before coming into contact with the youth justice system, their experiences in the system and return to community (where applicable). This methodology enabled a deep understanding of the children and young people’s lives, personal experiences and communities that is reflected in these stories and advocacy.
The engagement plan for this project was approved by the Department of Health and Human Services Human Research Ethics Committee, reference number: 19/16.
A note on our stories
The following stories have been de-identified to ensure children’s privacy and safety. The process of de-identification involved creating composite accounts that reflect the real lives of many Aboriginal children. All experiences and events included in the stories are real accounts with details and names changed for confidentiality. Stories have been reviewed by a focus group of young people with lived experience of the youth justice system.
These stories contain distressing content, including family violence, sexual abuse, physical violence, mental illness, self-harm, suicide and coarse language.